I recently mentioned that a friend had pointed me to the work of local crochet artist Ramekon O’Arwisters who has a current exhibit I’d love to go see. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this artist until now.
What Ramekon O’Arwisters Is About
Ramekon O’Arwisters uses art to:
- Collaboratee, participate in and encourage community art
- Showcase folk art traditions and techniques, including crochet
- Serve as a thought leader who “engages the public in thinking differently about the role of art within community and the power of art within society” (source)
- And show that “racial and gender politics are realities, not abstract constructs, and they are never far from his mind or his work” (source)
The artist regularly hosts crochet jams where anyone is welcome to come participate in crochet together to create what he calls Spirit Tapestries. Sometimes more than 100 people participate. He says this shows “how art-making in public in a safe and inclusive environment can be a bridge that unites and empowers others”.
More about why he started to do this work:
“I had a realization that I had been spending a lot of time doing social commentary but I wasn’t engaging people to think differently. I was just making statements. So I moved from social commentary to social practice. Instead of making artwork that describes the socio-political conditions of our time, I created a community around me that I want to see. I wanted to bring together the black and queer communities because when I grew up, there was a barrier between the black church and LGBT people, which still exists. I’ve acknowledged that divide in myself and no longer spend my energy keeping those two identities separate. I want to be the bridge that unites. That’s my motto.”
Check out the Crochet Jams site for more info.
Here are some images of his work, including collaborative crochet tapestries, in a 2013 exhibit called Sugar In Our Blood, The Spirit of Black and Queer Identity at the African American Art & Culture Complex.
More about this exhibit:
It “examines the stereotyping of LBGT and African American communities through colorful mixed-media installations that draw on the folk-art tradition of rag-rug tapestries. Incorporating intimate apparel, nightgowns, shirts, church hats, family photographs, aprons, and other cultural icons, the rugs are woven by the multi-ethnic, sexually diverse modern equivalent of a quilting bee. According to the artist, the finished pieces reflect sexuality, domesticity and spirituality, while conveying society’s stubborn attachment to sexual and racial prejudices.”
More About Crochet Artist Ramekon O’Arwisters
Ramekon O’Arwisters has a BA from the Unviersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters of Divinity from Duke. His work has been in a number of group shows and he has had solo art exhibits in San Francisco as well as Japan. He has received several awards and art grants including the 2014 Eureka Fellowship and was a resident artist at DeYoung Museum last year. He serves as the curator of exhibitions at the SFO Museum and works as a college guest lecturer in the Bay Area.
Mixed Media Art
In addition to his crochet tapestries O’Arwisters does a variety of mixed media artwork. His work makes bold statements using everyday objects. You can see some of this for sale on Amazon. He has also published a variety of writing.
Images from various sources, all linked to throughout the article, including several images courtesy of Alan Bamberger, artbusiness.com